Turtle Tours on Turtle Island

In my tour guide role, I had the privelege to share some of my very favourite special places with a Canadian client this weekend. Suzy says she is doing a ‘Turtle Tour’. She saved for ten years to make her epic odyssey to Ireland. We have been corresponding and Facebooking for at least the last two years. And now we meet as friends and what a joy to meet a fellow sojourner who savours their trek and pauses to take the pulse of presence in a place.

IMG_0721

At St. Hugh’s Well, Ballinagleragh, Leitrim

Suzy says she is a on a ‘Turtle Tour’ because she is not a hareing around kind of person. She takes it slow and steady, taking time to process the sights, smells, sounds, and taste of place.

Hand holding rock

Hands On the Boulder Tomb, Cavan Burren

And I have her to thank for clarifying my own work. I really am a Turtle Tour Guide. I stroll. I stop and stare. I like to take the time to mindfully be in the moment in a place. I might even stop to jot a haiku if that is gifted in the moment. And planet earth is sometimes called Turtle Island. Slow Travel – or Turtle Tours – are what I feel exemplifies sustainable, environmentally friendly travel for our precious planet.

You can keep up with all ten weeks of Suzy’s sojourn on her blog Suzy’s Epic Irish Odyssey. We bonded over our love of rock. Her excuse is that she comes from a lineage full of stone masons. I am still not sure what it is with me about rocks. (Incidentally, she got to share the same bus with the friend who was quoted in a previous blog. Such is the minimal degree of separation in Ireland. He made us our coffee today!)

Left: Sweathouse, Leitrim

Right: Boulder Tomb, Cavan Burren

Suzy spent time today at Cavan Burren Park. Most people automatically think Burren – Clare! Not so, though. There is more than one stoney place in Ireland. I have an artist friend, Amanda Jane Graham, who characterises the Cavan Burren as Ireland’s ‘Fluffy’ Burren because there is so much moss, lichen, leaf and green. So now we are referring to the Clare Burren as the ‘Baldy Burren.’ Ye can’t fault us for being boosterish of our local Burren!

Fluffy Burren

Ireland’s ‘Fluffy’ Burren in Cavan

And you can never really discount the magic – or sheer weird woo-woo stuff – that comes in when you are receptive. I had been hoping that Suzy would get to hear the cuckoo calling. I heard it and then, as we approached what feels like holy ground in the Cavan Burren forest, the cuckoo called – very loudly, very long, a much longer call lasting at least thirty seconds.  At first, I thought it was my husband, teasing us. But that was not the case. But it did happen just after I said, “Maybe the Cuckoo is calling especially for the Cucksons! ” (My husband’s family name is Cuckson.) I was mildly freaked out at the time, it was so up close and so unusual. Maybe it was a fairy teasing me!

It is always an honour to meet someone real world after acquaintance online. It is even more special when they intuitively ‘get you.’ Suzy gifted me items that made me feel very understood.  One was a Vancouver First Nations charm of a frog, which represents connection. And I know Suzy probably had in  mind a poem on this blog that has a refrain ‘Connection is the cure.’

More poignant was a little silver necklace with a pillar inscribed with this quotation, which she felt summed me up. We are mosaics, pieces of light, love, history, stars glued together with magic, music and word.

That really does sum up my life. So, thank you, Suzy for ‘seeing me’. I shall cherish this along with your presence as you graced the day,  your appreciation of the glory that is the corner of my particular part of Turtle Island.

So if you, too, want to make like a tortoise to experience Ireland on a ‘turtle tour’, I am your woman to guide ye!  You can contact me here.

What Remains

In Ireland, death is highly ritualised. Wherever a person dies, almost invariably ‘the remains’ are brought home. There is the wake with neighbours, friends, and extended family visiting the deceased, who is usually laid out in the best room, all coming to say goodbye, praying the rosary, drinking tea, eating sandwiches. Then the house may go private to family only before ‘the removal.’ The remains are removed from home to the church the night before the funeral and a service is held to welcome the coffin.  There are forms of words and people who may  not have visited the funeral house line up to sympathise with the family, shake hands, say “I am sorry for your loss.” Then the funeral, the commital for burial or cremation. Over three days, the bereaved waver on that liminal place of letting go. Each sympathiser dins the reality home. You have lost a loved one.  That is a sorry thing.

This poem circles around that certain funereal terminology – the remains.

Remains

1.

The remains.

Not corpse.

Not carcasse.

Not cadaver.

The sinew

the beloved bones

the convex and concave planes

of beloved face.

 

2.

A wood coffin.

A casket full of a once bejewelled life.

A willow woven basket

its warp and weft a living thing.

The stone sarcophagus.

A memorial cold as

the cold, cold ground.

Catacombs.

A city  of the dead

skulls and crossed bones huddled together.

Balm for those extrovert spirits.

Purgatory for solitary souls.

The Crem.

Burning what remains to ash.

Remembering how we began as dust

and to dust we shall return.

 

3.

When the dust settles.

When the motes no longer dance.

Those atoms waltzing in a certain slant of light.

What remains of settled dust?

The light. The light.

That remains.

 

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Hold the Space

I was travelling between 24th April and 6th May, which made the last leg of NaPoWriMo2018 a bit frantic and hectic. Travel is a bit of a brutality. Home is the reverse. Travel, however, does instruct. I was surprised by an attack of homesickness and nostalgia for Ireland that seems best expressed by the Irish word cumha. Yes, I missed my man, my very own Green Man, my Joyful Giver; but I also missed the land itself, the Celtic knottedness of home and belonging. It has happened before, but I rather discounted it. It is an identifiable pattern now.

Home is not birthplace or even where I hang my coat. It is the moss and tree limbs, stone, peat and clay of West Cavan. And as I was mentioning visiting Stonehenge and Avebury to a friend who has walked with me on the rocky Cavan Burren, he exclaimed, “What it is about you and stones?!” Cannot quite articulate a rational explanation just yet, Mick. But I have always slipped a pebble into my pocket, left them at graves even though I am not Jewish, gloried in fossils witnesed on beaches, threw an Irish pebble  into my parents’ Pennylvania grave. But wherever I go I play with stone. I found a sort of stone quern overlooking Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel. Someone had placed a shard of slate in it. I built a wee prayer cairn.

Hold the space
Travel breaks all habits. Home is the ritual space. Which includes getting back into writing routine, attending to the work diary, household chores. One can love one’s life. Being away and returning is a bit like falling in love all over again with everything that is beloved.


Hold the Space

On the page

In the room

With the body

Wholly present

Hold out your hands

Feel the atoms on your palms

Like dust motes

Dancing

What is their rhythm?

Slow your heart

To beat

With them

In time

In that space

Hearts

Beating in sync

The moment is the magic

Hold it, then

Release that fledgling

Into the wild

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Trophic Cascade

Day 30 of NaPoWriMo2018/GloPoWriMo and I am crossing the finishing line of the April Poem A Day Marathon. I may have dodgy knees, metal in my ankle and aching hips, but by golly I can poetry-thlete! I did all the suggested prompts this year, which I didn’t do in NaPoWriMo2017. This was my personal challenge. Not being a game kind of gal and one who views rules as guidance only, this was the way I could get out of my comfort zone.

Today’s prompt is supposed to be fact based. Here is the final prompt of NaPoWriMo2018. “And for our final (optional) prompt, I’d like you to take your cue from Borges, and write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.”

I didn’t opt for history or art trivia (kind of did that with Folded Cross). It isn’tnplain weird to use a science based fact as my inspiration for today’s poem. Except, for people who know me outside ofbthenrealm of cyber space, that is plain weird! If you have notbheard of this, Wikipoedia will enlighten. I first heard about it surrounding Cristina Eisenburg’s wolf studies. (The people you encounter through Sagewoman magazine!)

Trophic Cascade

No one wants to love the wolf.

Nor do they want to be the deer,

the sacrificial victim that

maintains the entire ecosphere.

You need very few alphas,

But an awful lot of bottom feeders.

It’s really a case of trickle up,

the massed power of all those omegas.

So it goes:

Wolf downs deer.

Less deer, more trees.

More trees, less erosion.

Less erosion, more beaver.

More beaver, less flood.

Less flood, more everything happy

for everyone downstream, the solid

ballast supporting the pyramid of eco hierarchy.

I love the wolf’s topaz eye, how

alone thinks of the welfare of the pack. 

I love the deer, who could and would say good-bye

all for the love of those further downstream.

I love the pact that those two make

knowing  what they must know. 

Which one is prey? Which is on the make?

Yet we rely upon the who and what they are,

the violence of their loving,

the rough and tough meeting smooth.

One has a topaz eye on fire.

The other a velvet soft, melting soothe.

That is the imperative design in nature.

The fountain overflows,  gives  no oxygen to any lie.

It loves what it loves. So

some may live and eat, so others must die.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Little Fugue in Glastonbury

Day 29 NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo finds me on Day 5 of my sojourn in southwest England. We are in Glastonbury with the festival of Beltane  imminent. The prompt for today asks us to play with the Plath Poetry Project. Choose one of that site’s posted Sylvia Plath poems and respond.  After a quick perusal I opted for Little Fugue.


Little Fugue at Glastonbury Abbey


The fallen magnolia blossom

Blistered by beastly north wind

Flesh shrivelled in infancy



This changeling season

It should be hirsute Green Man

And nude bathing at the well



I could thwack, thwack, thwack

At Old Frosty myself

With my old lady walking stick



For all the white vapour

Exuding from my breath

The cloud overhead



Nearly May and this is it

Woolen mittens a long stretch from

The white cotton of ladies summer gloves



Really more the season to huddle

Over in the hive of the Abbot’s kitchen

Warming at all four fires



And Brigid! You there on the white walls

In St. Patrick’s Chapel,

Why are you hanging on here?



The white of your snowdrops

Long since gone, but winter

Its’ prison pallour clinging on, clinging on



Beyond the time for cream to adorn the thorn

It’s barely flaunting a petticoat’s hem

To tempt any virile Green Men



Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

For my fellow sojourners Pat, Dawn and Anthony



The Folded Cross

Day28 of NaPoWriMo2018/ GloPoWriMo dawns and our prompt involves a prose poem and a postcard. Fortunately, when you are on holiday you collect postcards. Or at least if you are me, who is especialy fond  of haunting art galleries. That is one lack in my country mouse life – large civic collections of art. Today’s offering is inspired by my reaction when seeing the  Staffordshire Hoard, an Anglo- Saxon find in a field near Lichfield (been there, but didn’t pick up any postcsrds.)



The Folded Cross

You wouldn’t believe what happened to me

while I was wandering this museum gallery. It was

like I plumbed the secret depths of the Hoard’s mystery.

One thing I could pretty much guarantee to you. It was

a woman who hid the Hoard. And she was very angry

with the clergy.


Copyright 2018 Bee Smith








Postcard – The Staffordshire Hoard – gold pectoral cross -Birmingham Museums Trust




Wheel of Fortune

The prompt for Day 27 of NaPoWriMo2018 gives us the option of picking a random card from a trot deck. I didn’t use the one they linked in their blog. I happen to have not just one, but two tarot deck,apps on my iPad. I used Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot for my random and Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s Dark Goddess image for the poem’s raw material. I encourage you to look online at both artistic renderings. The images are in copyright, so no featured inage today. Today’s random pick from the app is Wheel of Fortune. It is Number 10. Being one of those divisible by a 5 is generally bodes…well, let’s just say the most positive spin is turbulence.

I am ready to roll.
Wheel of Fortune

Fortuna favours the ready

to roll with whatever change.

Do not weep. Or cry  It’s not fair!

Gnash teeth, or fall into despair.

Fortuna is fate. Also, the law of gravity.

She is the millstone grit grinding

us all to fine meal.

Even the mighty

shall become again just dust.

The kind we were at the beginning.

The kind to which we all return,

the mystical sort of stuff.

In the interim though, keep your hand

to the helm, thinking you steer the journey.

And some seem to keep their boat afloat.

Some run aground. Some drown.

It is all chance. In a way.

So spend your last pence on a beggar.

Give her a lift up

as your ship goes down.

Fortuna holds us all

In the palms of her hands.

Sometimes Her palm is soft.

Sometimes calloused from the hourglass sand.

Either way, She wears gold wings

to carry us away in the end.

What goes up comes down.

It also comes around.

Which won’t make a story bland.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith